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Extended version of Sundre Hospital Legacy Gala makes comeback

Formerly annual fundraiser to support health care in Sundre among many events returning after pandemic cancellations

SUNDRE – After being unable to lineup the Sundre Hospital Legacy Gala over the past couple of years because of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings, organizers were a bit nervous after becoming a little rusty, but they were no less eager than ever to hit the ground running.

“It feels really weird,” said Gerald Ingeveld, chair of the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee, which has organized the gala since the inaugural event in 2016.

“We go back to when we hosted the first one, we did it with like six weeks’ notice,” Ingeveld told the Albertan during an interview at the Sundre Community Centre, where volunteers were on Friday, Nov. 18 already busily preparing the facility.

At the time, everyone was gung ho to get the job done and everything almost seemed to just fall right into place, he said about the first gala.

However, this time around after being forced to cancel the event in both 2020 and 2021, he candidly confessed the committee was a bit nervous about inadvertently overlooking or forgetting some logistical details.

“Of course it’s all attached to what went on over the period of time of COVID,” he said. “So it’s a challenge.”

But if he was nervous, Ingeveld certainly didn’t show it, instead projecting confidence and enthusiasm.

“We want everything to go well,” he said. “We know it will; we’ve got a great community behind us, we’ve got great people helping us out. There’s not much that can go wrong.”

The gala was hosted this past Saturday night at the community centre, with about 200 ticket-holders attending with a total of about 230 including volunteers.

Moving Forward

After some two years of substantial disruptions to daily life, organizers opted to choose Moving Forward as the theme for the gala’s return.

“We feel like we’ve been sitting still and just waiting to go,” he said, drawing a comparison to race horses eagerly chomping at the bit for the gates to swing open so they can finally start running.

“We’ve been through some tough stuff and we kept going through it,” he said. “And the gates are open now, so there’s endless possibilities for what we can do.”

For the gala’s return, organizers sought to extend the evening to include a dance in large part due to feedback from people who attend the event in the past and felt it ended a bit early considering they’d gotten all dressed up for a night out. Previously wrapping up by about 9:30-10 p.m., the gala this year featured a dance floor with live music by Dustin Farr that continued for hours after official formalities, he said.

Among the dignitaries and officials addressing the crowd were Sundre mayor Richard Warnock, Mountain View County Reeve Angela Aalbers, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon, as well as representatives from the Rural Health Professions Action Plan and Alberta Health Service Central Zone.

“It went very, very well,” Ingeveld said Monday morning during a follow-up interview. “It was at least the energy and fun that we’ve had in the past. It ranks right up there with the best gala.”

Attendance was right where organizers had expected, although there were fewer tables set up this year to more comfortably accommodate space for the dance.

“With doing the dance that we wanted to do, we needed to have a little bit more room. It was more comfortable; we were awfully crowded the first couple of years,” he said.

Among this year's organizational wrinkles that will be ironed out next year was the duration of addresses and award presentations, which went on a bit longer than anticipated, he said, adding the dance's start time will likely be set back a bit later.

“It was a pretty busy night,” he said.

But that delay did not seem to dampen people’s overall mood, as the music played well into the early hours of the morning.

“I hung in until probably about quarter to one, and then that was all that I could take,” he said with a laugh, adding the dance continued until about 2 a.m. and that organizers have so far heard “nothing but good” feedback.

“A good time was had by all,” he said.

Supporting local health care

Aside from ticket sales, funds were also raised through a live auction conducted by Rosehill Auction Services as well as a silent auction, a 50-50 and liquor sales.

And instead of a raffle, organizers decided to try something new and different for fun. A wheelbarrow loaded with booze was wrapped up in a chain and locked up, with people given the chance to buy a key from a bunch in the hopes it would open the haul, he said.

Having generally raised around $20,000 in the past, organizers were optimistic about being in that ballpark.

“I would be surprised if we’re not right up there with the best that we’ve had,” Ingeveld said Monday morning, adding a lone significant donation was for $18,000.

By that afternoon, Ingeveld said organizers had an early estimate of about $50,000 after expenses.

Yet while fundraising is a big part of the gala, it certainly isn’t the only objective.

“The desire of having a gala, is to make a report to the community – what have we been doing, what have we been spending money on,” he said. “That’s the big thing, is let the community know.”

In partnership with the Sundre Hospital Auxiliary, the committee has helped cover the costs of modernizing the facility with new equipment. Over the past roughly three years, Ingeveld said the collaborative effort yielded more than $300,000 for equipment.

Having successfully seen through to completion the installation of new heart monitors and the launch of the eSIM lab, he said the committee has already set its sights on the next goal – a portable X-ray machine that would represent a major upgrade over the stationary unit.

“That’s about a $200,000 project,” he said.

And fully recognizing how financially challenging the past couple of years have been for so many people and businesses, Ingeveld also expressed his gratitude for those who didn’t hesitate to dig a little deeper.

“When you’re talking to some of the merchants, this is the sixth, seventh, eighth time that somebody’s come around looking for a gift,” he said. “So, it’s actually pretty amazing how generous the people in the community are even after being hit that many times.”

The lofty longterm goal remains laying the proverbial groundwork for an entirely new hospital and health care campus.

“A new hospital is still not off the books. It’s going to happen,” he said, adding with a smile, “I can retire after that.”

Hospital Futures, through the Sundre Health Professionals Attraction and Retention Committee, also allocates funds for two scholarships pertaining to health care. The Joanne Overguard Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 bursary for students who are specifically pursuing a path as a registered nurse. The other scholarship, also worth $1,000, is for students interested in more general health-care fields.

The goal is ultimately to encourage and enable local individuals with an interest in pursuing a career in health care to return to their rural roots to practise, he said.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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